Magical, Mystical, Modifications

Renay was called to task this week for failing to provide any modifications in a class. Before anyone gets on sides, Renay was pretty upset. Though the class has been working on the particular assignment for a month, it has literally taken Renay a month to help the two students she works with decode the mystery that is the current assignment. So this got us all thinking, Renay is really good at modifications, so what was the problem? The entire backbone of ParaEducate depends on Renay and her modification skills, she goes out and discusses the process of modification as well. She reminded us of some key tenants from the presentation.

Modifications are only as special as they need to be.

  • Does the student need lines to write an answer?
  • Does the student need a reminder of keywords and phrases?
  • Does the student need to learn how to answer in a framed response?
  • What does the assignment look like? Is the wording too dense?
  • What are the key ideas? Which ideas would we want the student to walk away with?
  • What lifelong skill do we want to cultivate in the student with this assignment? Determination? Perseverance? Looking things up? Asking for help?

(Hint: don’t ask yourself all these questions at the same time. If you’ve never made a modification before, you’ll need to separate out each question and work with one student.)

Modifications take time.

The best modifications Renay has provided are ones that Renay has time to create with thoughts about spacing and how answers should be found. Additionally, Renay then goes and tests the materials she is likely to sell in Special Day Classes (SDC) and in Inclusive programs with a variety of students with disabilities. But it also means that during the academic day at some point, Renay will spend time looking at the modification and figuring out how best to connect to those students who she wants to target for the modified assignment. An average turn around for Renay is about two workdays. If Renay produces a modification in less time it means she is working with only one student with very specific needs. But if any modification requires more than one student to be reached, expect two days.

More specifically, Renay has life demands (eating, sleeping, family/friends) like every other person on campus. All those priorities get sorted differently by different people. While Renay will gladly make a modification, she will also surprisingly say ‘no’ and eat dinner or visit with family and friends, even during the school week.

Modifications that are highly specific (we’re looking at you Ancient Greco-Roman Ethics) require learning space for staff to absorb and connect.

We pick on Secondary because classes can be very diverse and sometimes students have some obscure topic they are presented. Renay will promise you if you asked her about the French Revolution in French during French Class, she probably will not be able to keep up for the first few rounds. This would require her to really learn the French language and the interpretations of the highlight of French History. (As an aside: we’re not saying Renay can’t do this, but it’s the closest we could come up to something that would take Renay more time.) This is not to say that one should not try to decode US Economic policy for a modification if you have a less than surface-level understanding of general Economics, but there are limits to how modifications can be created and the challenges that any person making modifications can face. If you need more information to make a good modification: that means you should wait and see how it goes and not just make a flat out modification.

And before you jump all over the general education teacher in this case: This is the first time this general education teacher has students that Renay supports. Renay is doing exactly what she likes, helping her students and helping the general education teacher learn what it is to be really an inclusive educator. Sometimes a new educator “gets it” and sometimes, it needs to be worked on just a little bit more. Even if an educator understands and attempts, those attempts can still be too much out of the reach of a student with as many needs as Renay primarily works with. But Renay is that facilitator in the process of education, just as the general education teacher is responsible for providing information about the class they are teaching. Education is a concert, not a solo endeavor.

Education is a concert, not a solo endeavor.


To make the call to modify or not modify is literally a case by case basis. If the time and supports are there, maybe it is worth doing some more on the spot adaptations and discussions. And by the way, Renay did figure out how to modify the assignment. It’s a part of the reason why our new book is going to be late, she added another twenty-five pages because Renay learned from the students what might work better for them. We promise it will be worth it.

It Is Inclusive Schools Week…

Before we close out, it is Inclusive Schools’ Week. We know not everyone has seen an inclusive school or even an inclusive placement. And we used to wonder why. But specialists think about what we’d like you to know about an Inclusive School. Most organizations have turned it over to people with disabilities or their parents. But we’d like you to know that an Inclusive School is also inclusive of its staff and teachers.

Teachers who have disabilities do not feel ashamed when they work at an Inclusive School when they have an issue that lead to a minor mistake (spelling, technical). Teachers with disabilities at an Inclusive School help other students with and without disabilities remember there is a goal to look for after school.

Staff are a part of helping to keep the school running and are respected by all students. Those little ‘hi’s every morning make the difference to so many people.

The culture changes. The school changes. The community builds not just for a student with a disability, but for the entire community.

There is another break on the horizon

ParaEducate will continue publishing until December 19 for 2019. Then we will be off on break until January 16, 2020.

Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. ParaEducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

About paraeducate

ParaEducate is a company run to help reach out to paraeducators or paraprofessionals in public K-12 schools, giving advice, talking about publications that ParaEducate produces, and other useful information regarding working in public school settings.
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